Making The Holidays More Affordable

The holidays are relaxing, busy, stressful, and enjoyable – all at the same time. With so much constantly going on with family, food, and gifts, one way I make the holidays a lot less stressful is keeping my finances in check. With a baby coming in just a few months, Marcus and I are paying attention now more than ever to what we spend and what buckets we divide everything into. Here are a few ways we are keeping the holidays more affordable – and still doing everything we want to do.

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Pay Attention to Deals of the Day

Whether you like to shop on Amazon, Groupon, Living Social, Google offers, or any other deal sites, take a mental note of gifts or items you are looking for and get them when they come available. I have done this the past three years for our holiday cards, and have run away with steals each and every time. Of course, if you haven’t heard of the company before, do a quick search to check out reviews, just to make sure you are getting a quality product. I have had no issues so far, and have been really happy with how our cards have turned out. This year, I got the deal for InvitationBox.com and ended up paying $23 for 75 Christmas cards. When I checked out before I put in the voucher number, the total was over $125. That’s some pretty great savings!

2013 Christmas Card

Get Together in Groups

There are a lot of dinners with friends happening in the next couple of weeks, and while you don’t want to turn down an offer to catch up while grabbing a meal with friends, some times you just can’t do it all. Consider getting together with a group of friends, instead of each one individually. You can still catch up with everyone, but only have to pay the bill for one restaurant, instead of multiple.

Put a Budget in Place

If you haven’t already done this, its something you can actually start on next month for 2014. Determine who you bought gifts for this year, and tally up how much you spent on each gift. Get a total amount from all of the gifts, add a couple hundred dollars for unforeseen gifts you may purchase next holiday season, and then divide that total number by 11. Save that amount of money each month from January through November in a different bucket than your normal savings. Now, when December 1st rolls around, you will have plenty of money to use for gifts and you won’t even see your savings budge at all. Now, the key to this is staying on budget for each gift you buy next holiday season!

Opt for a Potluck

If you want to host a holiday party, take the main course and ask the other attendees to bring a side item or a dessert. It’s a great way to take the stresses away of planning a big meal for a lot people. It’s also a fantastic reason to try other people’s favorite family holiday recipes.

Consider doing a Secret Santa or White Elephant Gift Exchange

If you have a group of friends that all buy gifts for each other, ask to see if you can pick names and do a gift exchange. It becomes and reason to get together for a nice, festive get together, and is much easier on your bank account.

Secret Santa

Cash in Credit Card Points

If you have a credit card that earns points, cash some in for gifts. You can earn travel vouchers, gift cards, and much more. Cash in your points for some Amazon gift cards, and then buy gifts you had already planned on – just this time, with the gift card your credit card points provided for you. The points can be as good as cash for you. Since you have already spent the money to earn them, why not actually get use out of your previous spending?

What are a few holiday spending hacks you can think of?

Baby Baum: Weeks 28, 29, & 30

So it seems like I missed a week of Baby Baum postings, which means I have 3 bumps pictures ready for today! Whoops! Needless to say, time sure is flying by! Here are weeks 28, 29, & 30!

Baby Baum 28 Weeks

 

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Baby Baum 30 Weeks

I am definitely getting bigger from week to week! There has been plenty going on with the baby the past few weeks – here is the most recent update:

  • The baby is about the size of a head of cabbage.
  • Baby Baum is about 15.7 inches long now, and weighs about 3 pounds.
  • A pint and a half of amniotic fluid surrounds him or her, but that volume will decrease as it gets bigger and takes up more room in the uterus.
  • His or her eyesight continues to develop, though it’s not very keen; even after its born, he or she will keep its eyes closed for a good part of the day. When Baby Baum does open them, he or she will respond to changes in light but will have 20/400 vision — which means he or she can only make out objects a few inches from his or her face.

As for me….

Weight gained: I think I am hovering right around the 20lb mark. I was just under it for my 28 week appointment. Based on the way I am feeling, I am sure I am looking at 20-22 pounds.

Workouts: Still doing really well with staying active, although I think my running days are extremely numbered. Last week, all of the runs were more run/walks and this week, I have yet to run at all. Baby Baum is totally hanging out on my bladder, so running has become quite uncomfortable lately. I’ve just been walking the same distance I was running, so I am still getting in the movement, which I am very happy with. Strength training is still happening as well, but I am sticking to mostly upper body and then some body weight lunges and squats. It is just all my body can handle at this point.

Symptoms: 

  • Low Back Pain at the end of every day. Some days, its not bad at all. Other days, I need to lay down by about 7pm.
  • Bathroom trips like whoa!
  • Afternoon fatigue

Movement: Baby Baum is a mover and a shaker lately! The baby always moves right when I lay down to go to sleep, and then keeps me awake for a bit. Throughout the day, movement is always much more sporadic.

Food Aversions/Cravings: Nothing. All food is good food, as long as I don’t eat too much. There is just not enough space in my abdomen right now for a baby and multiple large meals.

Sleep: The past two weeks, I have just started to get up multiple times a night to use the bathroom. Luckily, I am able to fall asleep very fast after getting up, so I really haven’t noticed the break in sleep. I can’t seem to sleep past 7am or so, which is definitely a bummer. I’ll take what I can get though!

Stretch Marks: Nada!

Miss Anything?: I really miss easy running. I’m talking the mind clearing, easy breathing, easy runs. I haven’t had one of those since Memorial Day when I went on a run with my friend Meg. That is something I am really looking forward to come late spring.

Fun Things from the Week: We had a 4D Ultrasound last Thursday on my birthday, but unfortunately, had to reschedule. The baby is head down and facing my spine – great for later on with labor, but not so great for pictures. I was told to hydrate like crazy and drink something a little sugary before the next appointment, which we have today! Send us good vibes that we will be able to see his or her little face!

I also finally finished up the baby registry. Never in a million years would I think it to be so challenging to make one, but whoa! There are so many items to choose from, and not knowing the sex makes it even more difficult. All that matters is it is done and ready to go :)

Belly Button In or Out? Out, out, out for the world to see.

Wedding Rings on or off? On – the cold weather definitely helps that.

Happy or Moody? Happy, happy, happy. I really haven’t been affected by the moodiness, which I know Marcus it quite thankful for ;)

New Baby Items: I bought myself a snazzy new diaper bag, which I just love! I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of it yet, but I’ll have to get one soon. Otherwise, we really haven’t purchased anything else. Not knowing the sex has made it pretty easy not to buy anything crazy.

Looking forward to: The 4D Ultrasound (today) and our birth class. It was supposed to be this weekend, but it looks like we are going to have to choose another date, as they had to cancel the session we signed up for. I am oddly excited for it. :)

Anyone else have trouble with the 4D Ultrasound and the baby not being in a good view?

 

My Favorite Christmas Traditions

Now that we are only 9 days out from Christmas, I was thinking about some of my favorite traditions during the holiday season. Here are a few at the top of the list!

Christmas Lights

Ever since I was little, we have always put up lights at our house. No matter what we had going on, decorating has always been a huge deal to us. Same goes for  looking at other people’s hard work on their lights – I love it! I can’t help but ooohhh and ahhh when I see a house completely decked out with reds, greens, wreaths, and trees. It truly makes me smile.

I lucked out this year and was able to finally see the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Marcus and I took a mini vacation over to Orlando for the weekend, and were sure to put a day at Disney on our list. I was blown away by all of the lights!

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

The best part is they are put to music every 10-15 minutes – hence the dancing part of the spectacle. Here is a video of one of the songs.

Holiday Themed Races

I didn’t get to one this year because of my schedule, but holiday themed races are a blast. Between candy cane runs, jingle bell runs, and everything in between, there is so much fun to be had during these runs! So many people dress up and get in the holiday spirit – it really is contagious.

Jingle Bell Run

Cookies!

My mom makes orange cookies only once a year (at Christmas of course) and it is something my entire family looks forward to. I forget how much I like them during the summer and other time of year, but once I get that taste just after Thanksgiving, I remember why they are so awesome. She has already made two different batches so far this season, and I am thinking she is going for a third before Christmas actually gets here.

Orange Cookies

Peppermint, Peppermint, Peppermint

Man oh man! I love how there is so many peppermint themed items during this time of year! It is wayyyy ahead of pumpkin in my book, and is just everywhere right now. Peppermint coffee (and creamer), pretzels, cookies, candy canes, ice cream – I love it all!

Candy Cane Milano

Holiday Music

I am not one for Christmas songs until after Thanksgiving, but as soon as we wake up on Black Friday, bring on the holiday tunes! I love all of traditional music mostly, and then some of the creative stuff (Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, anyone???). If you don’t have Michael Buble’s Christmas album, I highly recommend picking it up. It is awesome!

Michael Buble Christmas

Family Time

The best part of the holidays, of course, is spending low-key time with family. My sister, Emily, is coming in town this year for the week of Christmas, and I can’t wait! There really is something about having so many business’ closed and everyone off work that makes for an awesome excuse to just hang out. Always much needed for everyone involved!

Disney Christmas 13

What are some holiday traditions you love (or would love to start?)

The 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Its Holiday Gift Time!

Here is a small list of some of the things I am loving this season, with the athletic individual in mind. Everything on this list is under $50, so it is really affordable for friends, family, and most people on your holiday list!

holiday gift guide 2 Moji 360 Mini Massager

The Stick and foam rollers are a piece of equipment every runner should have, and the Moji Massager is no different! It is extremely compact and can be taken anywhere. It fits right over your hand and is a great tool to use on the go.

Moji Massager Swiftwick Socks

A couple of months ago, I did a review and giveaway for Swiftwick socks, and I am still loving them! My favorite are the VIBE Zero’s, which come up just low enough to not give me that cankle feel, but just high enough to not slip under your shoe and cause blisters. It really is the perfect sock!

Swiftwick VIBE Zero

 

Lululemon Cool Racerback

This tank has been my saving grace throughout this pregnancy. I have quite a few of them in a size larger than I wear normally, and they are perfect. They are nice and long , and I don’t have my belly peeking out the bottom – very much appreciated!

Lululemon

Spa Finder Giftcard

Everyone could use a little rest and relaxation every once in a while, and a spa finder gift card is perfect! They can be emailed, printed, or mailed to the recipient, and used at over 20,000 spas worldwide.

SpaFinder Giftcards

The Runner’s World Cookbook

By no means do you have to be a runner to enjoy these recipes! The cookbook includes everything – soup, pizza, vegetarian items, smoothies, and so much more. If you are looking for a simple gift for the runner who already has everything, consider giving them something they can share with you too – the gift of cooking!

Runner's World Cookbook

Yoga Mat Strap

I always hate dragging my yoga mat around and then it completely unraveling. A yoga mat strap is the perfect way to never have to worry about your yoga mat again!

Lululemon Mat Strap Tervis Waterbottle

Every athlete (and non-athlete!) needs to focus on their water intake, and a cute water bottle makes it all the more fun. Tervis tumblers makes all kinds of cups and water bottles – all quite customizable. They are a somewhat local company (located in Venice, Florida) so I really like to support them. Their drink ware is safe for both hot and cold drinks and is also dishwasher safe.

Tervis

 What are some must haves on your holiday wish list?!

Maternity Photos: Baby Baum

I am fairly certain one of the most difficult things to do is take 148 photos and narrow them down to 6. That is just what I did over the weekend once I received our maternity photos!

Maternity Photos

I was really torn as to whether or not I even wanted to take them. At first, it seemed like a waste of money, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to make sure this special time was documented (and it was the perfect time to get a holiday card photo!).

Maternity photos

My childhood friend, Kathryn, is a very talented photographer based out of the Atlanta area. When I found out she was going to be in town for the Thanksgiving holiday, I knew I wanted her to be the one to take our maternity photos. She has a certain look to her work that I just love. All of her photos are so calm and serene – exactly what I was looking for.

Maternity Photos

Kathryn was able to capture everything perfectly! It was an overcast day, which made for some beautiful photos. There were a few hints of sunshine that broke through the clouds, and I think she took advantage of every one!

Maternity Photos

She gave me the advice of taking advantage of the 7 month mark for maternity pictures. The baby is just big enough so there is no mistaking you are pregnant, but still plenty comfortable and feeling great.

Maternity Photos

Thanks so much for capturing all of these amazing shots Kathryn! Everything turned out absolutely perfect!

maternity photos

Did you take maternity photos? If you didn’t, do you wish you had?